Daria Werbowy

I have a very blessed life. I hope somewhere along the way, I’ve inspired someone to do something . . . And I hope they say that I was nice and polite. Daria Werbowy


INTERVIEW: A lot of people imagine supermodels as overnight-success stories. But you worked for a long time before your career took off.

DARIA WERBOWY: Yeah. It was sort of like a shadow that followed me for such a huge part of my life. People wanted me to do commercials at 8 or 9 years old, but I first gave it a go when I finished high school. It was pretty much a disaster. Nothing really came out of it, so I gave myself six months and was living in Athens, Greece, and modeling in all of these random places. Nothing really clicked. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I decided to revisit it because I wanted to make money to go back to school. I guess it was just the right time and right place for me. Everything started to happen.

INTERVIEW: Now you’re 29. Are you ever surprised that you’ve been doing it for so long?

WERBOWY: Sometimes I am still surprised that I’m a model and that people think I’m good-looking. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases on what I do and why I do it—morally and ethically. I’ve tortured myself about it, especially in dealing with success and money. I just had to learn to look at it as a job, as opposed to identifying myself as a model and thinking of myself as a part of this industry. I just thought, Okay, this is an opportunity to learn and see and meet people. Still, I am a Scorpio and I’m quite competitive. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it as best I can. I’m going to give it everything.

INTERVIEW: What kind of a kid were you?

WERBOWY: I was really quiet and shy. The thought of attention made me want to hide in a closet. I wasn’t a kid who liked attention. I liked solitude and I still kind of do. I go through spurts where I love being around people and I want to be loud, but mostly I don’t mind being alone. When I was a kid, I was always around boys. I was always trying to keep up with boys—skateboarding and snowboarding. If my brother was mowing the lawn, I had to mow the lawn. If my brother was using a hammer, I needed to use a hammer. I’ve always been a little bit of a feminist.

INTERVIEW: Speaking of pushing yourself, it’s been said that you set a record for opening and closing the most shows in one season.

WERBOWY: Yeah. I actually don’t know if it’s true. Someone would have to be really bored to actually want to go through that torture to re-count and verify that. I guess that was my second or third season. I mostly remember just never sleeping.

INTERVIEW: You’re a real adventurer. You sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 2008.

WERBOWY: Yes! That’s a true, 100 percent. I grew up in a sailing family. My dad lived for sailing, and when we moved to Canada when I was a child, he really wanted us to learn. He found a junkyard boat and restored it, and it was his dream to sail across the Atlantic. So we did. It all came true. We had some funny issues along the way—like, not enough fuel at one point. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat and I will.

INTERVIEW: That sounds kind of terrifying, to be honest. The open ocean is so scary.

WERBOWY: Yeah, but I like terrifying. [laughs] Modeling’s terrifying to a lot of people too. Standing in front of a camera is terrifying. I like a challenge. Sailing really forces you to be present and in the moment. You kind of forget about the bullshit of life. Your thoughts go away because you’re focused on making sure everything’s working. I like being in that place.

INTERVIEW: Where do you spend most of your time when you’re not working these days?

WERBOWY: I’ve been traveling a lot. I try to work it out so I get a couple months off and then I work for two months. I try to do it in chunks so I can actually start and finish something. Right now I’m in between New York and Ireland. But I spent three weeks in Iceland last summer. Then I went to India for two and a half months. Then I was in Peru for four weeks.

INTERVIEW: When your modeling career took off, did anyone show you the ropes?

WERBOWY: Oh, god, someone’s going to read this and be like, “That’s a lie. I helped her!” [laughs] Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of anyone who really took me under their wing. You get advice from everyone. Kate Moss once said to me, “Don’t worry about the past, just keep going.” That has always sort of stuck with me. I couldn’t have asked for better agents. They were amazing and very supportive of me wanting to take time off and stuff like that. I also learned a lot from Emmanuelle Alt.

INTERVIEW: You worked with Helmut Newton on one of his last shoots, in 2004. What was that like?

WERBOWY: I was sick and he was sick, so he made me keep a distance away from him. [laughs] Still, he was amazing. I remember one of the first things he said was that he couldn’t believe how thin I was. He was like, “Whatever happened to women?” He also made me wear rubber nipples. He was getting quite old at the time, but he was wonderful. It was amazing to be in a situation where you have to create but you don’t feel any pressure. He had such confidence that it made things really easy. Steven has that, Bruce has that. There’s a natural sort of process of something coming to life, which I really liked. And with Helmut, it was so quick and easy. It was like, “We’re here, and let’s make you lay on a bed of nails.” But it didn’t seem contrived or overly thought-out. It was easy.


INTERVIEW: You have a reputation in the business for being incredibly nice and polite. Are you the nice supermodel?

WERBOWY: What does “nice” really mean? I mean, really. “She’s nice.”

INTERVIEW: It could mean that you’re always professional and pleasant and easy to work with, which are important and sometimes rare qualities in the fashion world.

WERBOWY: At the end of the day, I’m really fucking lucky. You know what I mean? I get up every morning and I can do what I want. I’ve made good money. I don’t have to schlep around and go to work every day. I have a very blessed life. There are hardships that come along with doing what us models have to do, but if I woke up complaining and bitchy every day, for god’s sake! Of course, there are days when you’re not feeling your best and you still have to stand up there and it can be difficult. But those days pass and you move on.

INTERVIEW: Do you have any phobias?

WERBOWY: Snakes, but I’m getting over it.

INTERVIEW: Have you ever held a snake?

WERBOWY: I haven’t in a while. The last time I did was probably six or seven years ago, and my whole body turned to ice. Like, I physically couldn’t do anything. I can look at pictures of them now. I can imagine them. Whereas before, with just the thought of snakes, I’d have to lift my feet off the ground because I’d think that they’re under me. So I’ve sort of made peace with that. Other phobias? Not really. I have a very high pain threshold.

INTERVIEW: If you had to stop working in fashion today, what would you want your legacy to be?

WERBOWY: I don’t know. I’ve never actually thought about that. I hope somewhere along the way, I’ve inspired someone to do something. … And I hope they say that I was nice and polite.

INTERVIEW: You’re Canadian. Canada must be very proud of you.

WERBOWY: You know, we Canadians have our own Walk of Fame.

INTERVIEW: Yes. And you and Linda Evangelista are the only two models on it, right?

WERBOWY: Yes. She and I are the models of the Walk of Fame. That’s right. [laughs] It was really awesome for me because I’m an immigrant, so to be embraced as a Canadian … It was really emotional. It sounds kind of cheesy but it was. I got up on stage and I was so nervous, but it was amazing to be standing up there. Not to bore you to tears, but my family’s history through the World Wars is really heavy. The fact that my parents got over to Canada is kind of amazing in and of itself. Had they not immigrated when I was a child, I probably would have never been doing what I’m doing today. So, thanks, Canada!

For more from our Model Issue, click here.